Wes Moore has believed for many years that the Southern Conference regular-season champion, and not the winner of the league tournament, should earn the automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament.
This season, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's coach has changed his tune.
"I hadn't always been real thrilled with [the system], but now it could work in our favor," said Moore, who is nearing the end of his 13th season at UTC.
The Lady Mocs have won 11 straight regular-season titles -- sharing the crown three times -- but barring a miracle, that streak is coming to an end.
UTC (12-12, 9-6) is four games back of league leader Appalachian State (19-4, 13-2) with five games remaining. Moore's team is mathematically still alive for the title, but just barely. It's tied for third with Elon.
"When I came here I said I feel like we'll compete every year, and obviously you're not going to win it every year, but we had a nice run," he said.
The Lady Mocs have won four of their last five games heading into tonight's matchup against Davidson (11-13, 6-9). While they obviously want to win out and finish as high in the standings as possible, they have their sights set on making a big run in the SoCon tournament.
"You think about [the streak] because it's a great tradition and no one wants to mess it up, no one wants to be the one who messed it up," sophomore guard Kayla Christopher said. "Ultimately we want to win the tournament and go to the NCAA tournament, so I think that's more what we're focusing on now."
The tournament runs March 3-7 at UTC's McKenzie Arena, but the Lady Mocs have not had much SoCon tournament success on their campus. They failed to reach the finals of the 2005 and '09 events there.
"It's definitely different than it has been the last two times here," Moore said. "In the past I think everybody felt like you won the regular season and you're supposed to win the tournament."
UTC won't be the favorite to win this year's tournament, which might not be a bad thing.
"Maybe this will be the year that having the tournament in Chattanooga helps," UTC athletic director Rick Hart said of the Lady Mocs. "I think our team has shown that we are good enough that we could win the championship, even in a year when maybe we don't continue this unbelievable streak of 11 straight regular-season championships.
"We're still a good basketball team, good enough to make a run."
The Lady Mocs will wrap up their regular-season home schedule Monday against Appalachian State.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mocsbeatCTFP.
John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...
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